What makes a good coffeehouse? For me, it’s a combination of chill and cozy atmosphere, preferably a selection of delicious baked goods (read: bagel or pain aux raisins), interesting brewing methods and a strong focus on quality coffee, of course. The truth is, my love affair with coffee – you know, the real one, not Starbucks quick-and-easy grabs – started in Boston where I discovered a few one-of-a-kind coffee shops serving amazing brews (I am still dreaming of The Pavement’s Spanish Latte at times). Since then every time I travel I make sure to look up the best coffee shops in town and Tokyo certainly has not been an exception, neither did it disappoint. With its blooming third wave caffeine culture there are quite a few quality roasters and serious-minded specialty shops brewing some seriously good cups in some seriously appealing environments (wow, that’s a lot of seriousness in one sentence, but don’t mind me, I just finished my second cup of coffee). Here’s a round-up of my favorite coffee shops in Tokyo (in no particular order) where you can have a truly enjoyable cup of joe. Lattest Omotesando Espresso Bar | 〒150ー0001 Tokyo, Shibuya
Those who follow my Instagram account know how much I love this place. The atmosphere here is relaxed, hip and trendy with bare concrete walls and cool décor statement pieces like a huge wooden table, and metal chairs. I am always warmly welcomed by friendly female baristas who make sure my coffee comes with elaborate latte art. Free wifi is a huge bonus, which makes it a perfect spot to bring your laptop and work at. I recommend trying their classic latte, as well as the signature caramel lattest shot, which is essentially created by pouring a shot of hot espresso into cold milk. Bear Pond Espresso | 〒155-0031 Tokyo, 世田谷区Kitazawa, 2-36-12
If you go off the beaten path and find yourself in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo’s bohemian neighborhood, make sure to check out this tiny shop which has gained cult following for its phenomenal cup of third wave coffee. The man behind the counter is Katsu Tanaka who honed his barista skills and spent the majority of his adult life in New York City. Coffee here is strong and bold. I quite enjoyed Guibraltar, a condensed version of latte. If you are an espresso aficionado, then his Angel Stain will surely hit the spot – Bear Pond’s famed signature espresso, served only until 1:00 p.m., with a maximum of 30 per day. Photos are strictly forbidden, make sure to ask for special permission. Tanaka-san also has another shop Corner No.8 in Shibuya, however the roasts were way too dark (on a verge of tasting burnt) for my taste there. Toranomon Koffee | Toranomon Hills Mori Tower, １-２３-３ Toranomon
One of the first spots I checked out upon arrival to Tokyo was Omotesando Koffee, which gathered crowds in their tiny quaint coffee house in Omotesando. Sadly, they had to give up the venue (which was later demolished) and relocate to drastically different Toranomon Tower. The premises better match the famed cube theme, although the comforting sense of coziness has definitely been lost. Barista shared they are looking for an adequately atmospheric place to move back to Harajuku. The best news is, the quality of their amazing coffee has not changed a bit. You simply cannot go wrong with their cappuccino or latte and make sure you get one of those cube-shaped cannels. Yum! Café Kitsune | 3 Chome-17-1 Minamiaoyama, 港区 Tokyo 107-0062
Décor here is a mélange of traditional and modern incorporating Japanese touches like custom-made tatami, Japanese monograms strewn throughout the walls and fusuma sliding doors. The in-house barristas were trained by above-mentioned Omotesando Koffee’s Eiichi Kunitomo. Coffee here will surprise you with strong flavors and smooth finish. Cafe de L’Ambre | 〒104-0061 Tokyo, 中央区Ginza, 8-10-15
Head here for a taste of something retro and an atmosphere of a traditional kissaten (coffee shop). Located in the backstreet of bustling and luxurious Ginza, time seems to have ignored L’Ambre. Founded in 1948 this smoke-stained shop looks more like a relic together with its owner Ichiro Sekiguchi, who turned 102 this year. The selection of beans on offer is astounding, highlights including aged beans like a 1954 Colombian or a ’95 Guatemalan. While a choice of meticulously brewed artisanal blends is endless, for me personally, the real draw was the iced coffee, chilled in a cocktail shaker and served in a Champaign glass. Little Nap Coffee | 〒151-0053 Tokyo, Shibuya
Funky name huh? Interior corresponds the name and cheerful young baristas greet you upon entrance and are ready to brew a cup of java that will definitely make you want to come back for more. The accidental physical contact due to lack of space is a small price to pay for the reward of excellent espresso brews. Streamer Coffee Company | 1 Chome-20-28 Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0002
Owned by 2008 Free Pour Latte Art Champion Hiroshi Sawada, this spot is highly famed for its latte art – something that requires a perfectly extracted shot of espresso and advanced milk steaming technique. Indeed coffee here is not just visually appealing, but also incredibly tasty. I thoroughly enjoyed my cup of Mudslide, silky and syrupy with hints of delicate acidity. Fuglen | 〒151-0063 Tokyo, Shibuya
Coffee shop by day and cocktail bar by night, Fuglen (translated as “the bird”) was imported from Oslo not too far away from Yoyogi Park. Their latte had beautiful fruity undertones and a velvety finish. You can enjoy your coffee in the small yet cozy ambiance or take it to Yoyogi Park across the road and enjoy nature while sipping on a perfect cup of joe. I enjoyed mine with the side of Viron’s freshly baked pain aux raisins. Heaven! The Roastery by Nozi | 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya
While perusing fashion forward shops of Harajuku on Cat Street, make sure to stop by this buzzy place to get your fix of java. The shop roasts its own beans, offering blends and a selection of single-origin coffees that change frequently. You are always greeted with friendly staff who provide information on the daily brews. Latte had more robust flavor which I quite enjoyed.
Which is your favorite coffee shop in Tokyo? Please share in comments below so that I check it out next time I’m hunting for my perfect morning coffee fix.
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